Favorite Thing: Yoga with Adriene

My relationship with Yoga is long and sordid. We’ve been on-again, off-again for years. I’ve tried to make it work. I’ve put in extra effort, and I’ve half-assed it. I dabble, then I quit. Yoga and I are just so complicated, so combative. Yoga’s all, “Come on, try me again,” and I’m all, “No. You suck.”

And then I found Adriene.

Yoga with Adriene

Some random day during a random week in 2015, a Yoga with Adriene video popped up in my YouTube feed. She looked warm and friendly, like we could chat in the grocery line and realize we were meant to be friends. I clicked on the video. Her voice was sobering. I watched a few poses, then I tried them.

It’s fair to say that Yoga and I are working steadily on our relationship again. For the first time, I have hope.

Unlike my small collection of yoga DVDs, Adriene takes it down a notch. Not the intensity or creativity of her workouts, but rather the fancy-pants language of the yoga practice. Yes, she occasionally throws Sanskrit here and there, but she talks us through each step. She explains what each body part is supposed to be doing, how it’s supposed to feel, and modifies the poses for those who are less or more experienced. She doesn’t assume you know everything, and yet, even if you do know everything, you don’t feel like you’re in a beginner’s class.

Adriene is just so… easy. Mind you, yoga is NOT easy. It is not just a bunch of stretching. It is a string of positions that pulls your muscles to full tension and opens up joints to their capacity. Not all yoga instructors are easy to follow or even easy to watch, but following Adriene’s instructions are so calming and encouraging. She is constantly praising us, telling us how great we’re doing. For me, that’s huge.

It would be easier to stop trying yoga and stick to running and lifting at the gym, but the practice is always worth it in the end. My joints feel looser, more flexible. My posture gets a little straighter and my core gets a little tighter. It’s the sort of strength training you cannot achieve with weights. I push myself a little harder each time, and sure enough, it pays off afterward.

Adriene in namaste

If you’ve tried and failed at a regular relationship with Yoga, consider Adriene. Here’s three things I love:

  1. Her YouTube channel makes it easy peasy. All you need is WiFi and some floor space. No gym membership, no equipment needed. I don’t even have a yoga mat. (However, I do encourage you to wear tight-fitting clothes – tank tops and leggings or something similar. Loose clothing and yoga are not companions.)
  2. Her video variety is wide. Beginners to experts, 20 minutes to an hour, yoga for weight loss, yoga for relaxation, yoga for certain times of the month, etc. If you can’t find a video to suit your needs, you’re too needy.
  3. Adriene provides exactly what you need, nothing more, nothing less. In the beginning I used to skip the warm up/cool down breathing, but then I realized I was short-changing myself. The prep work really is necessary for an effective workout, and the cool down is a peaceful way to wind down. Unlike my yoga DVDs and other online yogis I’ve tried, the warm up/cool down time isn’t lengthy. It’s just enough to get you started and get you finished.

On improving my flexibility

There is a double meaning in that headline, so hang on tight.

I’m in the middle of a running sabbatical brought on by shin splints. I’ve never had shin splints before so I was hesitant to label my lower leg pain as such. But after consulting my chiropractor about it (and making sure nothing was fractured), she confirmed that it was likely that I had shin splints and said I needed to stop running for at least two weeks, maybe four. My spirit was crushed because I’ve never not run for more than a week in the last seven years. This is what I do. Whether it’s a quick two miles or a lengthy 10-miler, I run every week. To NOT run is not only hard on my body but it’s increasingly hard on my brain. Regular runners will know what I mean.

While still evaluating me, which included stretching my legs all over the room to capacity, my chiropractor mentioned, “You’re really inflexible. Your hamstrings are pretty bad.”

I defended my hamstrings by telling her they’ve always been that way and I personally think they were made too short. I’m ten feet tall, after all. My hamstrings are doing their best. She dismissed my excuses and said I needed to spend this running sabbatical stretching and doing yoga, because, “You need to be more flexible.”

Now let’s switch gears.

When I started my Lenten journey last week, I made a promise to God and myself that I would keep an open mind. Whatever He was going to teach me, I was going to roll with it. I wouldn’t dismiss anything off the bat, nor would I just accept something because. To do this, I’ve given myself a few parameters, the first being that I will only read books that are thought-provoking, a little controversial, or uncomfortable. Nothing warm and fuzzy, because I’ve had a lot of warm and fuzzy and those lessons were not long-lasting.

I’m currently reading Selling Water by the River by Shane Hipps. Wouldn’t you know there was all this stuff about flexibility.

The difficulty with the Christian religion is that our institution is centered on the person of Jesus, and Jesus consistently undermined the natural inertia of institutions. He was the embodiment of pure, unbridled creative force.

Creativity is often disruptive. It has little interest in preservation; it is about making new things and making things new. Creation by nature is always expanding, growing, and unfolding. Jesus upends, revives, and restores the malleability of our rigid religions.

I lived in California for a few years. I learned that the best way to prevent an earthquake from destroying a building is to construct the building so that it can sway and swoon, bend and wobble. Make a foundation of the building less rigid and it will ride the earthquake rather than try to resist it. The building is designed to go with the flow.

The same is true of our religion – what doesn’t bend may break. This simple lesson in physics applies to even our souls. The ability to bend and flex matters. We might say blessed are the flexible for they won’t get bend out of shape.

(page 38, emphasis mine)

Well, hello God. Here you are stretching my mind just like we agreed. Like my hamstrings, the religious section of my brain has spent years in limited flexibility, and like my  hamstrings, I’m going to give it a little more attention.